The concept of memory care, or our understanding of memory work as a form of care, is a fundamental aspect of our project. But what, exactly, do we mean by this?
The work — or, indeed, the labour — of memory is frequently entangled with the act of care. To remember a lost family member, for example; to speak of them fondly, to tell stories about who they were and what they loved, is an act of both memory and of caring where one informs the other. Adam Rosenblatt, in his work on forensic care for victims of atrocity, places the English word ‘care’ at the intersection of the Spanish words ‘cuidado’ and ‘cariño’: the ongoing day-to-day ‘care work’ of looking after someone or something, informed and sustained by the ‘tender, caring feeling’ that one bears for the object of care (Rosenblatt, 2015, 172). With reference to memory, using the example of the lost family member, the cariño one feels for their lost parent or grandparent results in the act of cuidado, of ‘looking after’ their memory: telling stories about them, recording the facts of their life, and ensuring that they are not forgotten.
We place this understanding of care in conversation with the work of Marianne Hirsch and Susanne Luhmann. Hirsch, in her work on postmemory, writes that ‘affiliative memory transmission’ is a process that concerns ‘how certain stories and certain histories circulate through a generation where some people feel drawn to them, being responsible and holding them and caring for them to hand them down’, defining this process as a form of ‘care for people and stories that would otherwise fall out of history’ (Altınay and Pető, 2015, 392); Luhmann, drawing on this work, proposes that such ‘durational memory care work’ enacts a reparative function, ‘symbolically and representationally […] restoring identity and dignity’ (2022, 42) to those whose memories, such as the victims of atrocity in Rosenblatt’s work, have been erased from public record.
As part of our research for the project Memory as Transgenerational Care, we are currently exploring such acts of memory care in the context of the memories of Basque child refugees, evacuated to the United Kingdom in 1937. A key element of this research work is our series of workshops with the children and grandchildren of the niños vascos, as well as with memory activists, and present-day refugee organisations: these workshops create an open space for dialogue and discussion, where family members and descendants are able to share their memories freely. As part of these discussions, we aim to expand memory care work beyond family or blood ties, into an ethical and political practice. Further, through our documentation of these sessions, as well as through the artistic output of our project partners Judith Martínez Estrada, Alicia García Bergua, and Claire Highnett, these memories will then enter into the record in the form of an art exhibition in 2024, which aims to facilitate greater social justice for those whose stories have been silenced, as well as to demonstrate the transformative potential of the creative arts in negotiating and transmitting traumatic pasts.
Ultimately, we believe that a focus on these acts of memory care will aid in our understanding of how these memories circulate and are passed on trans- and inter-generationally, which in turn will inform our understanding of certain (hi)stories, both in the context of memory and silences in Spain and more broadly.
Luhmann, Susanne. ‘Memory Care and Queer Akinship at the Former Uckermark Concentration Camp for Girls and Young Women’. Memory Studies, vol. 16, no. 1, Feb. 2023, pp. 32–50.
Rosenblatt, Adam. Digging the Disappeared: Forensic Science after Atrocity. Stanford University Press, 2015.